I'm not a friend to grackles
. My brother and I spent a good deal of our island childhood scaring the miserable shits away from our high-bush blueberries: sometimes with a shout, often with slingshots.
But if I have to keep company with a feathered pest, I prefer native species such as this to invasive ones.
I never saw a starling until I moved to Massachusetts. Once here, for a long while they were the only blackbird we saw, at least in town.
And we saw them in the thousands, classic vast flocks that moved around town like plagues of feathered locusts. Apart from feasting on everything, they were as talented at shitting on humans as pigeons (which we don't have) and seagulls (which we do).
Over the past four or five years, the starling population around here seems to have fallen off. I haven't yet found an ornithologist's explanation for it, but it suits me fine. In the past two summers, the grackles have appeared to fill the blackbird niche. Since we're trying to raise native, fruit-bearing bushes to feed more welcome birds, the presence of the grackles bears close observation. In addition to fruit, their diet is reportedly composed of "everything else," including other songbirds.
In our innocent childhood, on an island far from the law, we though nothing of showering grackles with rocks and slingshot projectiles. I now learn that they are classified as a "native songbird" and thus are protected. I can buy protected, but songbird?
Their call resembles the creak of rusty springs in an old upholstered rocker in the house on the island.
Starlings, on the other hand, are invasive birds and thus, it seems, subject to all the abuse that humankind can inflict upon them. Although happy that a native species seems to have taken the upper, er, wing in ecological competition, I have no plans to roll out the red carpet for these birds.
Meanwhile, on terra firma
, we have unexpected guests. A few days ago, the neighbourhood optometrist was surprised by three deer as he opened his office. Curious, he followed them across the main drag where his office is, into our block. They crossed down over four lots, finally leaving by way of ours. Another neighbour was up and verified the sighting.
One would be happier to see deer except for the gift that comes in their wake: deer ticks and Lyme disease. Where I practice archery, up near the New Hampshire border, deer and ticks and Lyme have become a serious problem. Our host has been infected, despite considerable precautions. His physician said this problem is a result of overpopulation. If deer can manage to scrape a living in this densely settled coastal town, I'm ready to believe that.
The news marked the end of my uxorial unit's latest venture into support of the natural habitat. In order to protect the brief bloom of native violets, which in turn are the food of the fritillary butterfly's caterpillar
, we had to forgo mowing the lawn. It's been wet. The grass has grown fast. In the quest to provide habitat for the fritillary, our lawn became a perfect habitat for deer ticks. Violet season is over, so I have been out haying to set things up for the mower. All I need now is some kind of domesticated ruminant to keep up the good work.
Labels: common grackles, deer, deer ticks, fritllary butterflies, Lyme disease